• On offer is F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet for Indian Navy

By Sangeeta Saxena

New Delhi. 15 July 2020. As the countdown to Farnborough International Airshow 2020 in its new virtual avatar begins, American aerospace major Boeing held a pre-show webinar with the Indian media , where it threw light on the delivery of its two F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet flight test aircraft to the U.S. Navy and reiterated its commitment to support Indian armed forces modernisation by stating that the same Block III aircraft that is being built for the US. Navy is on offer to the India Navy.

F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet

Thom Breckenridge, Vice President of International Sales for Strike, Surveillance and Mobility, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said that the F/A-18 for the Indian Navy will provide the best capability with the Block III configuration and benefits from the multi-billion dollar investments made towards new technologies in the Super Hornet by the U.S Navy and international customers. Additionally, the F/A-18 Super Hornet will provide superior value and tremendous opportunity to the Indian Navy. It can enhance collaboration in the areas of naval aviation between the Indian Navy and the U.S. Navy to maintain peace and security throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

Elaborating on the advantages of the Block III, Thom stated that there are five enhancements that comprise this version of Super Hornets. The first is an enhanced and advanced cockpit that looks like an eye pad in the sky. It’s an 11 by 19 inch touch screen that can be configured, reconfigured and tailored to both pilots liking, as well as to reflect whatever it is that needs to be reflected consistent with that particular pilot and aviation system that ends it. So that’s coming online.

Secondly, the Block III will also be bringing conformal fuel tanks which will have an additional 120 nautical miles range. That also improves aero performance as a result of the placement on the shoulders of the aircraft. Thirdly, there is a new computer and a new data link. The new computer is called DTP for Distributed Targeting Process or network and that new data link will enable the networking of the platform in and amongst other platforms.The fourth item is an enhanced airframe. We’re going to 10000 thousand hours. So the investment that that customers can make will pay off even longer as the airframe moves from 6000 to 10000 hours.

And then finally, improvements in Radar cross section or sort of stealthiness that that come in along with these other enhancements for Block III. “And I think it’s important to point out that the Navy could have chosen other enhancements. And what I mean by that is there was a very careful consideration into the mix of what enhancements would go into this block three. And this is truly as a result of the careful consideration, the right mix of improvement to get to that next gen capability.”

Restating that India is front and center of significant opportunities for Boeing, with India’s defence forces having invested in advanced capabilities for now and the future, he said that Boeing is committed to supporting, as well as helping the modernisation of India’s armed forces. “The F/A-18 Super Hornet will enhance collaboration between the U.S. Navy and Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean region. Boeing’s plan is to offer ‘By India, For India’ sustainment program that will build on other successful sustainment programs that Boeing is executing for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy today, to sustain, modify and upgrade F/A-18 Super Hornet from India,” Breckenridge added.

“If you think about it this way, one where we have the newbuild aircraft in St. Louis and then we’re actually doing two, what we call service life modification lines, one in St. Louis and one in San Antonio, where we’re through with the Navy taking the previous iteration of Super Hornet and upgrading it to the block three. So, again, a lot of longevity ahead for the block three and a lot of international besides the conversation that we’re having here today with respect to India. We have a number of other important competitions underway where we’re competing in Canada and in Finland and Switzerland. We’ve been down selected already in Germany. The list goes on and in total that it represents more than 400 aircraft for potential international sales, irrespective of what may happen in the United States itself,” he informed.

Super Hornet
Boeing Indian media Round Table in Le Bourget

Continuing to the benefits for Indian Navy which will help them take decision, Thom said, “ And one of the three key reasons, the other important key reason is really around cost. Which will not surprise any of you. And knowing, as I know you all do, that that that is made up of two key components, both acquisition and price. Just a word on the attractive acquisition price that India can look at based on the economies of scale that we have with the Super Hornet between the Super Hornet and Growler, we’ve delivered over 700 aircraft.”

He added that there is a scale that’s out there. So thinking through not only from an acquisition standpoint, but as India thinks about having this aircraft in its fleet for decades to come, and those eventual upgrades can be spread over a much larger quantity of aircraft, really improving the affordability of ownership over time. “So, again, costs really being an important piece of the equation as well. One other thing I will say, though, is related to the airframe. Like I mentioned, that that’s now 10000 hours from 6000 hours. And the implications that that has, obviously, on the operations and sustainment costs element, being able to obviously own it longer really does enable use for a longer, obviously. And then in terms of, again, economies of scale as it relates to upgrades that could go on being spread out among a much larger quantity. The third key reason, as far as I see it, in terms of how we’re differentiated, is a little bit more abstract, but I think none the less important. And that’s really around commitment. And what I mean by that is, is what comes along with the purchase of an F 18 Super Hornet. There is a commitment Boeing has towards purchase level and the other towards India. And I think that commitment actually can be further thought of in a couple of different layers. And let me explain what I mean by that. One is that the Boeing Company level. So a purchase or a selection of the F 18 brings the Boeing commitment Boeing’s commitment to India and our history and presence in India, which we as a company are very proud of. I know I myself personally, am very proud of our relationships and presence in India, ” he said optimistically.

“And again, that selection of an F 18 enables the Indian Navy to share lessons and experiences with the Navy, with the U.S. Navy, as both Navy continue to grow the relationship in the region. Many people have pointed out that the U.S. Navy Indian Navy relationship has really led the bilateral relationship over these many years in terms of the improvements and in terms of the enhancements of the overall U.S. India relationship. So we really see this as an opportunity between the two services, between the two navies, to take the cooperation and collaboration to the next level. And that really brings me to the kind of third layer of commitment, and that’s at that geopolitical level between the United States and India. And we’ve already alluded to it in the sense that that has really grown, as we’ve all observed and appreciated over a number of years. And we really see this not to speak on the certainly on behalf of the government, but as an observer, see this as a real opportunity to accelerate and enhance. Relationship over time, which we all recognize is only going to become more important both for India and the United States, given the number of things that are happening in the Indian Ocean region. I think there’ll be a point that I would make is, well, not necessarily a reason, but I think another kind of dimension and all of it is then is tiny. And, you know, as I know you’ll all appreciate, there’s a saying that timing is everything. And I think that applies to affairs of the heart, as it does equally to affairs of state,” Thom ended on a positive note.